*I’m (as far as I can tell) a better writer than I am a speaker. Recently, after picking up my one-year coin, I shared a bit of my story, as tends to happen in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. I thought about what I was going to say all day. Of course, as soon as I opened my mouth, all of that went out the window. This is how it was supposed to sound. Proper structure and grammar be damned. Freestyle writing.*
Hello, friends. My name is Josh, and I am an alcoholic. Probably an addict, too, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am an alcoholic, so that’s why I’m here tonight at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is my home group. The Twomey Group right here in Centerville, TN. A group that I call the Motel 6 of recovery because of how many times they left the light on for me. I’m convinced that Tom Bodett is in this room but doesn’t want to break his anonymity. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that due to these peculiar times, I have a “Zoom home group” as well, which is Charlz Harper’s “Recovery Matters.” Every single night that I’m not here, I’m there. It is not hyperbolic of me to say that alongside a Power greater than myself, a family that never quit on me, and friends that supported me – that I owe my life to these two groups. I am eternally grateful to you all, and I’m happy to be here. Well, that isn’t true, is it? Nobody is *happy* to wind up in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Perhaps down the line, we might be, but I can’t imagine that’s how any of us would’ve drawn it up. I suppose what I mean is that I’m grateful that you are all here because I need it, and these meetings don’t exist without you guys continuing to suit up and show up.
I want so badly to be unique, but look at what doing things *my* way has gotten me? Look at where my “unique” thinking has landed me? Right here in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. When you join a team, any team, there is a certain way that team does things. In these rooms, we share our experience, strength, and hope with each other that we may solve our common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. Our common problem; not MY unique problem. Wouldn’t it be nice to be so special that the problem of alcoholism only fell upon me so that *I* could be the one to design the blueprint that saves everyone? Well, guess what? The blueprint already exists. Bill and Bob gave it to us right here with the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, not everyone treats this book as if it were the blueprint to recovering from alcoholism, and because of that, among other things, alcoholics don’t make it. They don’t make it to the tune of 261 people every day. Two hundred and sixty-one people die a day from alcoholism in the United States. That statistic should tell us everything we need to know. It is OUR problem, and it is OUR responsibility to carry Bill and Bob’s message to the alcoholic who still suffers. What message? That it Can. Be. Done. And on April 20th, 2020, I finally understood that message loud and clear and haven’t had a drink since. Again, I have you all to thank for that. Another thing we do on this team is tell our stories. Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. This is mine. Sorry, Mom and Dad.
“What we used to be like” is supposed to entail what we were like when we were drinking, but I’m going to do that a little different because I’m so unique. I feel it’s important to note what I was like growing up. There is no kid in the history of kids that could ask for a better upbringing than I had. My high-speed trek into alcoholism was no fault of my parents or grandparents. You hear this all the time, but my parents raised me better than that. I was provided with everything I could have possibly needed or wanted, not that I ever asked for much. The quote reads, “happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.” That was me. I wanted what I had, and I was perfectly content with myself. In my estimation, there is only one number on the scale of one to ten that exists. Seven. All the other numbers are an illusion. If you ask people to rate their lives on a scale of one to ten, the majority of people will tell you seven. It’s like they think that’s a bad number or something. Seven is a great number, and the other ones don’t exist anyway. For example, let’s say you get that dream job that you’ve always wanted. Once you get that job, you might feel like you are on cloud nine and rate yourself as such on the scale. A nine. That lasts until you start to talk to your coworkers and get to know them. “These people suck at their jobs,” we say to ourselves. It might even last longer than that until a few months go by and it becomes, “I deserve a promotion.” What happened to that nine? Nothing, really. It was just an illusion until we inevitably revert to the natural seven. A bit ironic as my drink of choice was Seagram’s 7, but I digress. Well, I had my seven until the allure of temptation presented itself. You know, I have debates with people, most notably my sponsor, about whether the stories in the Bible are just that. Stories. Stories that demonstrate to us how things should or should not be done. So much of my story resembles the classic tale of Adam and Eve or even the story of Gautama (the Buddha) leaving the palace. Adam, Eve, and the Buddha himself were tempted or intrigued by the outside world, and when they ventured out beyond their respective paradises, they became conscious, or self-conscious. I assume a familiar story for a lot of us. Somewhere along the line, I thought to myself that what I saw other people have might be better than what I have, and I wanted to find out. And I did. And it wasn’t. That’s not to say that what I had was “better,” per se, than what anybody else had, but I had it right. Rather, I feel comfortable saying that I had it more right than most of the kids my age. I had God in my life and a family that I loved. What else is there, really? Here’s a story my dad may not like me telling: Pop dropped me off for my first day of what I think was pre-school. Instead of actually leaving after dropping me off, he fake-left, and watched to see if I would interact with the other kids. “Fuck them kids.” – Michael Jordan, and four-year-old Josh. In all seriousness, I wasn’t concerned. All I cared about was if the Kings were going to finally win a game that night. Obviously, this isolation of sorts would have become an issue if it happened every day, but one day I wore a Power Rangers T-Shirt. Bam. Instant friendship. A bit of foreshadowing there with the Power Rangers tee.
The school my dad dropped me off at was a private Christian school. In the beginning (ha!), it wasn’t such a problem. In fact, it was more beneficial than it was detrimental. As I grew older, I thought it became the reverse, but early on, it helped provide with me with a set of morals and values that I would become overwhelmed with guilt and shame if I ever betrayed. One time in the sixth grade, I can remember being in tears because I got a D on a math test. That’s the kind of kid I was. It wasn’t exactly the guilt and shame that I came to know later in the midst of alcoholism. The type of guilt and shame where I would wake up, roll one foot over the edge of the bed, and step into.. a puddle, let’s say. You see, I like it colder in my room when I go to bed, and one night it rained pretty heavily, so I left the window open. I thought it was the damnedest thing! How could the rain only have saturated the jeans that I wore to bed because I was too intoxicated to take them off and one specific spot on the floor!? You would think that the rain would have drenched everything. Strange that, isn’t it? The girl I was with at the time wasn’t buying my version of the story. Anyway, the point is that it appears that I was a better adolescent than I was an “adult.” There seems to be enough evidence to suggest why that was the case. In my addiction, God had been abandoned; in my adolescence, God was present. Simple stuff, that. But why was God abandoned? Well, along with the eventual succumbence to temptation, I was an impressionable kid who spent a lot of time in his own head. Fast forward to today, and I am an impressionable thirty-one-year-old who succumbs to temptation and spends a lot of time in his own head. That impressionability, though, I believe, was what did my relationship with God in. Let us keep in mind that I am four years old here. Possibly a little bit older, but I am somewhere between four to six years old, learning about how this Evil Being named ‘SATAN’ is a real thing. It was petrifying for me to think about. Now that I think about it, I could have been a little older when they brought out the fallen angel deal, but either way. Even at, let’s say, ten years old, it was frightening. The idea of ‘demons’ started to own my nights. Not all my nights, but a lot of them. Dreams, or rather nightmares, of the supernatural, started to torment me. Nightmares of this nature caused me problems for quite some time. It wasn’t until recently that they’ve begun to lose their significance. By the time I reached the sixth grade, I think I was about 11 or 12, I started to ask questions about all this stuff. “Did these stories in the Bible really happen?” “What was there before God?” “How did God just exist if there was nothing before there was something?” “If you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. How does that work for someone like my brother who suffers from autism?” Tough one, the latter. They’re all tough, really. I don’t envy any of the Bible teachers that were posed these questions by me. How could they give me any sort of possible answer to questions that were impossible to answer? Thus, the agnostic seed within had received its first watering. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that these questions are my questions. My questions that if I really want any sort of “answer” to, then I need to seek them for myself. But I didn’t know that at whatever age I was. In turn, I felt that because the people who “should” know the answers to these questions did not or didn’t have an answer that was sufficient enough for me, I abandoned faith instead of doing the necessary seeking for myself. For my money, religion was causing me more stress than it was serenity. To hell with it. Pun intended.
As far as I can tell, there are two things going on here: 1) Other kids my age, whether it be at school or in the hockey locker room, were more socially competent than I was and seemed to be maturing faster. I wanted what they had and began to peer over the fence, rather than accepting who and where I was and standing pat. The social maturation of other kids and my apparent lack of it had me questioning myself. “Something must be wrong with me. I need to fix it.” I can remember so many times in hockey locker rooms, my teammates would be discussing new ideas or discoveries that I had no clue about. There would be me in the corner of the room just twiddling my thumbs. “Oh, boy. What’s a blowjob!?” You know Butters from South Park? That was me. 2) “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” was not a concept I understood or even really understand today if we are being honest. Point blank: I didn’t really want anything to do with the whole God thing anymore. It was causing me problems. Unbeknownst to me, this thinking would cause me more problems than I *thought* I had. But how was I to know that? The point is that I was booking my flight with Agnostic Airlines. The Old Testament stories can’t possibly be real, some of the passages in the Old Testament are fuckin insane, and nobody had any answers anyway. “Just have faith!” No. That wasn’t good enough for me.
There’s the groundwork for the entrance of alcohol. Throughout most of my teenage years, those were the two struggles. I switched schools from a Christian school to a public school for several reasons. Obviously, I wasn’t much into God anymore, but the Christian school was “too far away,” even though I wasn’t the one driving. Maybe I thought public school would help me become less sheltered. One of my cousins used to throw that word at me. “Sheltered.” It perturbed me because she was right, although I think for the wrong reasons. Her idea of me being sheltered was, “Josh isn’t doing the wrong things that everyone else is doing.” But she’s right anyway because doing those wrong things might be part of how a kid grows. One of the “12 Rules for Life” is “not to bother children while they are skateboarding.” The premise of the rule is that kids need to learn their limitations, break the rules, and figure out what is and isn’t okay in the world. Perhaps, I would have been better served to go “skateboarding,” if you will, but I was comfortable in my own little world. I was Gautama retreating back behind the palace walls, so to speak. My time at Newbury Park High School was.. I don’t even know the word. Interesting, I guess. There was *zero* success with the opposite sex. None. It was to the point where I was googling how to get better with women. It may have been Ask Jeeves back then. There was this girl whom I had a crush on who had no idea that I had a crush on her because I never talked to her, but one morning I had a big moment. At least I thought it was going to be (See: Patrik Stefan misses empty net) a big moment. I got to school late, and everybody was already in class. Well, the hallways were a ghost town, and as fate would have it, she came walking down the hall. Just me and her. I had a new L.A. Dodger sweatshirt and hat on. I really thought she would notice how much cooler I looked. As we approached each other, I looked up and put on my sexiest smile. She laughed out loud at me. Not some bullshit “el oh el” that millennials type after every sentence. A real laugh out loud. What’s funny about it is she forgot about this event immediately after it happened. Here I am about thirteen years later, talking about it in an Alcoholics Anonymous speech. But I guess I tell that story to try and paint the picture that I had no idea what I was doing! I hadn’t a clue. When I was nineteen, I moved away to Beaverton, OR, to play hockey somewhat competitively. Everyone who played with me in that league just did another one of those actual laughs out loud’s when they read “competitively.” But I can remember that I came into possession of some ganja. My sobriety day is 4/20/20, but I can probably count the number of times I smoked weed on one hand. I had no intention of smoking the weed I was in possession of, and I didn’t! Instead, I kept it in my hockey bag on the off chance that one of my teammates would see it and think I was “cool.” Then, I’d be “in.” Finally, one of the cool kids. I had not a clue, you guys. Not one.
If alcohol could write a rebuttal to that little-big-blue book, I’m sure it would also make promises that would be fulfilled among us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. For me, they seemingly materialized overnight. You know what, though? It works – only if you work it. Logic prevailed after the first couple of times I drank. I woke up feeling like I had been run over by an express train, and I thought to myself, “I am never going to do that ever again.” There were elongated intervals between those first couple of times I drank. Some people don’t have the stones to drink past the first few hangovers. Not I. I put in the work until one day, I had my “alcohol a-ha” moment. An alcoholic awakening. That moment where the effects of alcohol granted me everything I had ever wanted. In rapid succession, I felt a confidence that I had never felt before, I was an integral part of the cool group (at least I felt that way, and that’s half the battle), and at age twenty, I had sex for the first time in front of a witness. It quickly went from “I am never going to do that again” to “I am going to do as much of this as I possibly can.” I grew a set of balls for the first time in my life. I wasn’t going to capitulate to anybody ever again. Scoffers could scoff and be damned. Fuck ’em. The Josh I wanted to be had finally arrived. Remember that aforementioned Power Rangers T-Shirt? Well, I had figured out a way to morph into somebody else: The Orange Ranger. And eventually, the Orange Ranger bagged up the Pink Ranger. Let’s fuckin’ go. She was the most attractive girl in that whole city, in my opinion, and she was mine. Well, for five months, she was until she speedily found out that all I was doing was “morphing.” I shared that at a meeting once, and one of the kids from a treatment center came up to me afterward and asked me how I managed to do all that “morphine.” Drug addicts, bro. Smh. Anyway, I know now what everybody else already knew a decade and some change ago. That I was an alcoholic from sip one.
In professional wrestling, they call it a “work.” Attempting to convince the audience that what they are watching is real. When pro wrestling is at its best, they are successfully “working” the audience. Conversely, it is at its worst when the audience can no longer suspend their disbelief. Nothing changes here. I may have worked my audience for a time, but ultimately, I ran out of “morphs.” The jig was up. In the end, all that morphing wound up in pitiful, incomprehensible demoralization. It’s one thing in your early twenties, you know? Even in my mid-twenties, I *may* have worked the audience into thinking there was something “cool” or “rebellious” about what I was doing. Maybe. Either that or they knew I was a fraud long before I found out. But, when I turn thirty, and I am trying to morph into an “Orange Ranger,” it becomes fuckin’ embarrassing. I’m out there trying to morph into some orange superhero suit, but the suit is all raggedy and torn up. I became a thirty-year-old man trying to put on a children’s Halloween costume. Eventually, the day came when I was trying to morph into that alter-ego, but it was just short-circuiting. I had run out of booze, and my mom had taken my keys with her to work. There was no more stupid “orange ranger.” It was just Josh in the driveway trying to break into his own car to get to the spare key. Some of the neighbors saw me desperately trying to get in and lent a hand. They didn’t know all I wanted to do was go get more booze. After failing to get into my car, I figured I would introduce myself to the other neighbors. I knocked on about five different doors to ask them if they had any spare alcohol. They all said no. Volunteer state, my balls! The Orange Ranger died that day. Mercifully. Shortly after that, I checked into rehab for the first time on April 20th, 2020. I haven’t picked up a drink since.
Robin Williams asks Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, “what do you want to do?” Will can’t answer the question. Williams says to him, “You and your bullshit. You got a bullshit answer for everybody, but I ask you a very simple question, and you can’t give me a straight answer… Because you don’t know.” I am Will Hunting in that scene, walking through the doors of rehab for the first time. Me and my bullshit. I looked around at where I was and realized that I didn’t have a straight answer for anything. I didn’t know who I was or what I believed.. I didn’t know anything anymore. I never had. If you want to know the truth about rehab, I’ll tell you: It’s essentially a cheat code. Rehab is a “free” 30 days to keep you away from a drink or a drug. That’s basically it. I don’t know. Some people have the capability to just go back to rehab again if they fuck up. That might explain why they choose to spend their time there the way they do. Personally, I did a whole lot of thinking. Certain thoughts came to me like a thunderbolt. Thoughts like, “who are you to say there is no God?” “Look what happens when you try and run the show.” Thirty thousand dollars to find out that I have nothing found out. Fortunately, I had people who thought I was worth it, and I love them for that. The Ranch out here in Nunnelly, TN, did put certain people in my life, as I mentioned before. I want to mention them all by name, but you know.. It’s Alcoholics *Anonymous.* One of them I already have mentioned, and that’s Mr. Charlz Harper. He has been astronomical in my recovery. Feel free to look him up and get that Zoom ID and password.
People stressed to me that I needed a plan upon leaving rehab. I guess I had one, but it wasn’t much of a plan. My whole plan was to not drink and go to meetings. I had managed to retain that message as I was stumbling in and out of meetings previously. That’s what I did, and that’s what I’m doing. For a little over a year, I’ve been going to meetings and fellowshipping with you all. One of the assistants from The Ranch drove me from the house I stayed at back to where I was going to be picked up. He told me, “Immediately go to your home group and ask for a sponsor.” So, I rushed down to my home group, and six months later, I finally asked for a sponsor. The benefit of doing it the wrong way was that I was able to truly scan the room and find somebody who truly had what I wanted. If you ask me, I ended up with two sponsors, really. One of them I would have asked to be my sponsor, but I don’t think he knows how to read, so I asked his friend, who was a Big Book connoisseur. I’ve learned more than I ever have before by listening to these two curmudgeons talk about the program. I’m only able to say all this today because these guys, who are a part of the Twomey Group, left the light on for me.
My recovery to this point can solely be attributed to two things: 1) “As soon as a man can say that he does believe, or is willing to believe (in a Power greater than himself), we emphatically assure him that he is on his way,” and 2) The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I knew nothing before I came into these rooms. I still, obviously, know mostly nothing. But I know a little bit more than I did before. That’s a credit to you guys.
Thank you all for my sobriety. Keep coming back; we need each other.
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